Keeping Up With Jones; Scotch Plains Councilman Views Things with a Different Set of Eyes

Councilman Llewellyn Jones is the only Republican on the Scotch Plains governing body. Credits: John Mooney
Llewellyn Jones was sworn in by former Governor Donald DeFrancesco on January 1, 2015. Credits: John Mooney
Councilman Llewellyn Jones and his children participated in the MLK Day of Service at Willow Grove Church on Monday, Jan. 19, 2015.
Councilman Llewellyn Jones, pictured here with local Democratic chair Linda Stender at the MLK Day of Service yesterday, plans to work of a bipartisan basis to make Scotch Plains a better place. Credits: John Mooney
Llewellyn Jones and Rose Checchio discuss ideas at the Reorganization meeting on Jan. 1, 2015. Credits: John Mooney
Llewellyn Jones with his 2014 Township Council running mates, Mickey Marcus and Bo Vastine at Scotch Plains Day. Credits: John Mooney
Councilman Jones at a recent Raritan Valley Rail Coalition meeting.

SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ -- He won the most votes on Election Day, yet Llewellyn Jones, the lone Republican on the Scotch Plains Town Council, finds himself in the minority of a governing body that holds a 4-1 majority.

For most of his time on the Council, Jones was part of a Republican majority with Bo Vastine and Mickey Marcus, who was originally elected as a Democrat, but later switched parties. A political newcomer in November 2013, he upset incumbent Democrat Lou Beckerman, the former Scotch Plains Democratic Party chairman, by more than 800 votes. He defeated the former Democratic party chair primarily by focusing on the "Joint Meeting" structure of the proposed Scotch Plains-Fanwood police department merger. (He supports a traditional shared service format.)

During an election season frequently marked by sharp words and open personal hostilities between Council members in 2014, the gentlemanly Jones, who grew up in the Midwest, outpaced all candidates at the polls on Election Day.

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As 2015 begins, he finds himself as odd man out until the next Scotch Plains Council elections in 2016 when Councilwoman Colleen Gialanella and Mayor Kevin Glover's terms are set to expire.

"I don't relish being the political opposition or want to be a naysayer," said Jones during a recent breakfast interview with TAP into SPF. "My role now is to view things with a different set of eyes and to help ensure transparency."

Not only is Jones outnumbered by Gialanella, Glover and newly elected John Del Sordi and Rose Checchio, but the new Township Manager is the longtime Union County Freeholder, Al Mirabella, one of most popular local Democratic politicians.

"Most people agree that I'm a reasonable person. I think we can find common ground," Jones said.

At the January 1st Reorganization meeting, Jones voted with the majority on most of the appointments proposed by Mayor Kevin Glover, including Mirabella's new position. He raised concerns over the nomination of Lou Beckerman, his 2013 opponent for office, as the Township's risk manager.

"There were three bids. Mr. Beckerman's company came in at 5 percent, another firm came in at 4.3 percent, and Pinnacle Risk, the incumbent firm, dropped its price to 2.5 percent," Jones explained. "The lowest bid was roughly half the cost, although Mr. Beckerman subsequently lowered his price to 4.5 percent."

Jones also questioned why Scotch Plains would hire a new health insurance broker for the next year when the Township would be switching to the state health insurance plan and thus not need a broker once that takes place in April.

"If we only need the service for three months, why should we sign a contract for an entire year," Jones questioned.

A native of Minneapolis, Jones earned his bachelor’s degree in mathematics and economics from Kenyon College and a MS degree in computational finance from Carnegie Mellon University. He started his career in the capital markets division at Goldman Sachs and after 5 years left to co-found Qtrade Capital Partners LLC.

"I want to be an advocate for the taxpayer. I support modernization of the way we do things in Scotch Plains, smart downtown redevelopment, and exploration of cost savings through shared services," said Jones, who believes his background as a financial professional makes him particularly well suited to serve on the Council. "I'm willing to work with anyone who wants to work with me."

Jones explained that the police contract negotiated by former Township Manager Jerry Giaimis, despite lowering officers' health care contribution from 32 percent to 20 percent, is a long-term win for Scotch Plains taxpayers.

"The contract calls for very modest raises over the next few years. Although the healthcare giveback does increase costs in the short-term, the officers gave up longevity pay," the Councilman explained. "It's a bigger cost than the insurance, but the savings won't be realized until down the road. It is not an insignificant sum of money that we will be saving."

Jones has been actively involved in the community immediately since moving to Scotch Plains six years ago. Prior to his election in 2013, he served on the township's zoning board of adjustment. He also coaches his son's soccer team.  Jones and his wife, Bridget, have three children ages 7, 4, and 13 mos.

As the only elected Republican official on the Township's governing body, Llewellyn Jones is automatically viewed as the favorite to run against Kevin Glover for the mayor's seat in 2016. For now, he's avoiding the question.

"My goal right now is to do a good job as Councilman. Then I'll worry about the future."

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